Monday, 27 March 2017

Floating away

After my first float, I had a lot of comments and questions about the experience, so I decided to write a blog about it.

Find a float studio
I have been to 2: Mystic Float and Zee Float.  I got a discounted float from MF thorough Groupon.

Arriving at your appointment
Both spas have an inviting waiting room, where you fill out a waiver.  Then the attendant shows you to your float room.
Reception area at Zee Float.

The attendant shows you the vanity area, for after the float and then goes through the float procedure.  The room includes a shower, and you must shower beforehand, to get oils off your skin, remove your contacts, put on earplugs, and apply petroleum jelly if you have any cuts/scrapes on your skin.  There is 1000 pounds of epsom salts in the water and you will float regardless, but there is also a foam headrest which is shaped a lot like a toilet seat, which I like to use to ensure my face stays above water. Getting any water in your eyes or cuts on your body will sting like a @#$&* if you are not careful.

Floaty time!
The tanks at MF and ZF are very different.  MF has a pod, and ZF has a tank.
"Escape Tank" at Zee Float.
Pod at Mystic Float.
I prefer the pod a lot more, as you can leave the lid open at any angle or close it completely, there's cool lights inside, and underwater speakers (you choose the light colour and music upon arrival).  The pod at MF is quite large (I floated 180 degrees during my session) and when the lid is closed, I cannot touch it with my arms outstretched.  The water is body temperature so it is not hot and steamy.  I think if it was steamy, I would feel very claustrophobic with the lid closed.
Then you get in, and float.  Sessions are either 60 or 90 minutes. At MF the lights inside come back on when the session is done, and at ZF, since it is silent throughout, music starts playing in the room.  I find the quiet time is very good for my anxiety and the magnesium benefits me as a runner.  My muscles are less sore, and I sleep like the dead afterwards.
Shower again.  Make sure you rinse out your ears! After my first float, I did not do this and was picking epsom salt dandruff out of my ears for a couple of days. Enjoy using the high end, organic skin and hair products.

At Mystic Float, at this point you are done, although you are free to chill in the reception area and drink some water/tea.  Nothing more except to pay.

At Zee Float, this was the beginning of my favourite part.  There is a lounge, with comfy chairs, funky lighting, books, a journal for sharing your floating experience, an oxygen bar, and a kombucha tap.  Everything is included in the price of the float, so I tried it all.

Oxygen bar with different scents.
The oxygen bar was really fun.  You stick hoses up your nose, and choose and scent and huff the scented air.  The benefits are dubious at best, but I'm sure it's healthier than huffing a Glade plug-in.

Looking like a hospital patient with the oxygen tube, and some light reading.
I had never tried kombucha until recently and I love it! It sounds pretty gross, and I imagine that some brands/flavours probably are, but the ones I've had were delicious.

Live Kombucha Naked blend, tastes like ginger ale.
I could have stayed and chilled in the lounge for a long time...but alas, it was time to go home.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The inglorious DNF

After an absolutely brutal 23K road long run a few weeks ago, I had already decided that this this would be my final ATB and "retire" from road races longer than a half.

It was my first time doing ATB with no one to meet up with beforehand.  I was expecting to meet up with some people, so when I didn't see them, my anxiety started to rise...the fact that everyone else seemed to have friends and the huge crowd definitely didn't help.

There was another incident that happened before the race that embarrassed me greatly and made the anxiety even worse; I won't go into detail but let's just say I was already in a poor mindset when the race started.  

My Achilles made itself known with a dull ache immediately. I was hitting the pace for the first couple 10 minute running sections, but it was a struggle, my legs felt tired, I got rid of the sign after 1K because my fingers hurt, and I was so anxious that I was blinking back tears.  After making the turn onto Burlington St and seeing that I was way slower than goal pace even though my effort was high, I decided to pack it in.

I took off the ears and thought about making it to the 10K relay checkpoint, but the medical staff on bikes passed by and they called the dead wagon for me.

Shared the dead wagon with an elite Kenyan (Gilbert Kiptoo, just looked him up on Sportstats) and a dude who was so fucked up from dehydration that he was completely delirious, even though it was less than 10K into the race.

Going to regroup tonight with a float and try again tomorrow on the trails.

Escape from anxiety.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Oh 2016.

First of all, some numbers:

2016: 3116.3K running (2 runs remaining).  You can bet I'm going to aim for 2000 miles (3218.6K) in 2017!  I've never run more than 2600K previously so I am thrilled!
Lifetime: 20264.2K (since 2008)
Bruce Trail badges: 8

Cycling: 524.2K.
Events: 17. 5 road races, 11 trail races (4 ultras; 3x50K, 1x50M), 1 bike.

Some of the more memorable moments of 2016:

  • Running in -41C windchill at the Oracle Trail Race.
  • My first 50 miler at Sulphur.
  • Getting reacquainted with Shannon, my friend from elementary school, and her husband Darek, who are avid trail runners.
Showing Shannon and Darek the wonders of the Bruce Trail.
  • Meeting my friend and coach, Heather, in person and running a race with her.
  • Joining a really cool local trail running group.
  • Trying snowshoe running.

The big year end question: what's in store for 2017?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Raiding the Hammer

My previous experience with orienteering/adventure running prior to this year was in elementary school in the late 80's/early 90's when we went on short hikes to the nearby conservation area and culminated with a field trip to a meet.  I remember that it was snowy, everyone took off running (I don't know about other people in my class, but I always walked during the hikes) and I started crying at the meet because I couldn't run more than about 10 steps before getting winded, much less in bad weather....

So let's just say those were not exactly positive memories.

Then we signed Bryden up for ARK last spring, culminating with ARKfest, which was a 1 hour choose your own adventure race to get to as many checkpoints as possible and a very low key way to get re-acquainted with orienteering.  Poking around the Don't Get Lost site, I thought the adult events looked kind of fun.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on the Burly Trail Runners FB group, a team for the half raid was looking for a 3rd member, was anyone interested? I replied, thinking they would choose someone else, but it ended up being me and I was committed.

Team Missing the (check)point!

I met up with Blair and Matt 2 weeks ago for a short run at Dundas Valley, confirmed a million times that my plodding slow running pace wouldn't piss them off and that was it until race morning.

The race start was at Saltfleet High School and they did not give out the maps until 8:30 on the dot.  Then we had until 9:45 to study the maps and plot a course.  Since I didn't have a compass (except on my Garmin), I could only offer tips on what terrain was like in specific areas.

We got bussed to the start (King's Forest near Albion Falls) and we were off.  The section in King's Forest was a little bit technical, my legs got a little scratched up (as I was expecting) and people would NOT stop commenting on how I shouldn't have been wearing a skirt.

For most of the race, I was running behind Matt and Blair and basically not having to do any navigation.  We got to checkpoint 6 (out of 13) in just under an hour, that was very quick considering we were thinking the whole race would take 3 hours.  

The second half of the race started with a choice of 2 checkpoints in an area that I am very familiar with - I ran nearly all my hill repeats on that section of BT this past summer and ran there the Thursday before the race.  I thought the south CP was easier to access, even though it was at the top of the big paved hill, but I was outvoted and we went into a forest via a little singletrack directly across from the BT underpass and found the CP...HOWEVER..then we had to get up the escarpment. Off trail, on small loose rocks, bendy little tree branches.  I went up on all fours and was so glad I had 2 guys as teammates to pull me over the top.

Matt going down the escarpment, off trail.
The next section had us running on the BT through Stoney Creek and had 2 checkpoints that were not marked on the map.  The BT follows a paved path and then veers off into the woods, which would have been a great place to hide a checkpoint, as many people ignored the blazes and stayed on the paved path.  Turns out, the 2 "hidden" checkpoints were right on the side of the trail.

We finished 19th of 50 teams, and well under 3 hours.  I don't think I'll give up ultras for adventure running, but it was certainly a fun change of pace and thank you Matt and Blair for giving me the opportunity to try something new!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Mendon Trail Run 30K

My friend and coach, Heather, and I planned to do an off-season trail run together.  We were planning on running at Letchworth State Park until we found the Mendon Trail Run, which was incredibly cheap ($20 USD) and the same price for 20 or 30K, so may as well get our money's worth, right?

The 30K started at a very reasonable 9:30 am, which meant that I only had to get up at 4 am to make the 2 hour+ drive down.  Forecast called for mainly sunny skies and a high of 14, so I went with a short sleeve top and arm warmers.  Upon arrival, it was overcast and it was really damn cold just walking to the race HQ building.  Even though there was a roaring fire in the stove, I was still freezing, and fortunately I had brought a long sleeve top and changed.

map? I thought this was a trail race, not adventure running!

Everyone was given a course map, and since the race was organized by the Rochester Orienteering Club, I had a sudden panic that we'd have to navigate the course using the map as opposed to course markers.  Thankfully, the course was one of the most well marked I've ever run - plates marked with arrows at turns and forks blocked off with flags.  The Ultrasignup stats predicted a 4:28 finish - considering most of my 30K runs were usually 5+ hours, I would be ecstatic with any time under 5 hours.  At the start, I saw my DM friend, Wilt, such a nice surprise, after he missed the post ATB party this year. 

I always find it amusing when trail race directors describe a course as "completely runnable". There were rolling hills throughout the 10k loop, I walked the bigger hills, especially the calf burner called Kitty Litter Hill.  Each loop I ran a bit slower than the last, but Heather kept me moving and I took Shannon's advice to not linger too much at aid stations.  I fueled with Endurance Tap, oranges and pop from the aid station, and homemade kimbap.  I was quite tired in the last 5K and the cups of Coke I slammed were absolutely life giving.  We finished strong, well under 5 hours, not DFL and hours before the cutoff!

Kimbap with carrots, spinach and tofu.

It was fantastic to meet Heather in person for the first time, and we chatted so much that other runners commented on it.  Hopefully on my next (and 3rd) visit to Corning next spring, I will finally have an opportunity to visit the glass museum!

Post run beers in Corning.
On Sunday, I will be trying out adventure running at Raid the Hammer.  If we have to run through brambles like this, I will probably curse a lot more colourfully than the guy in the video.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Vulture Bait 50K

I knew after last year's edition of Vulture Bait that I wanted to come back to do the 50K.  I registered way back in February and had some second thoughts about doing another ultra so soon after Haliburton..but hey, there's always people who do crazier things.

After this spring and summer of hellish gross heat, finally a race day with near perfect conditions of high 19C (temperature 6C at race start) and sunny.
Fall colours at Fanshawe Conservation Area.
I got up at 3 am to pee and couldn't fall back asleep, so I got out of bed before my alarm.  My stomach felt blah but I ate a hefty breakfast.  

As I remembered from last year, the first kilometre or so is mild uphill, and there are a few small hills along the 25K loop, but the entire course is very runnable.  And did I ever run!  The first loop was definitely the best 25K I've ever run.  My legs felt fantastic.  I wasn't fast but I was super steady.  It was easy to pick people off on the road sections.  There was a lady who blew by me, promptly face planted and then proceeded to spend the next few kilometres doing this annoying fartlek: run really fast for a short distance and then walk a lot, staying just ahead of me.  I finally managed to drop her on an incline and was so glad to not see her again.

One of the highlights at the end of the loop is the themed boozy aid station.  Last year the theme was redneck, this year it was Jamaican, serving Red Stripe and margaritas.

Sampling the offerings.
Unfortunately, the final 5-6K of the loop was very poorly marked, with no flags even at trail forks.  I don't remember navigation being a problem last year.

So what I got from running the best first half ever...was 3:30 clock time, not good with a 7 hour cutoff.  Obviously, there was no way I would negative split the race and I wasn't going to kill myself trying, so I took it easy when it became apparent that I would miss the cutoff again.

I knew I was in my usual DFL position when an older gentleman passed me early in the 2nd loop and someone at an aid station told me that he was the last guy they let go before the 25K cutoff.  I had plenty of food and water, but the aid stations stayed open for me.

The volunteers were all very concerned, thinking that I had bonked or hurt myself, and I lost count of how many times I told them, "I'm fine! I'm just slow!"
Finally, the sweeper met me, he was running backwards on the course to bring people in.  I did not catch his name but I have seen him before, at Seaton and Sulphur.  We were followed by the medics in a golf cart, I was glad to have some company and for the excellent service but seriously...this was not necessary!

Since I missed the cutoff, I have no official finishing time, but my Garmin showed that this was my 2nd fastest 50K, and 2+ hours faster than Hali.

Still got a medal!

Thank you so much to Jennifer-Anne Meneray and the kind volunteers for taking good care of me, even though you totally did not have to!  I am not embarrassed about missing the cutoff, or being DFL, I absolutely did my best and if my best means DFL, so be it.

Drinking all the beers with Shannon and Darek.
So that's it for ultras in 2016.  I'm going to sweeping at The Bad Thing next week and I'm doing the half Raid the Hammer with team Missing the (check)point in November, my first foray into adventure running.  Big things planned for 2017!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Haliburton Forest 50K

Last year, I went to a fun run organized by one of the AS regulars.  Everyone seemed to know everyone else and it sounded like Haliburton was the fall ultra to run.

I opened up my training log and RFP after Sulphur and realized I did not want to spend time modifying a training plan.  Fortunately, my friend Heather is a running coach, and I got a block of coaching with her as a birthday present.  

Of course, I had no goals other than to finish and have fun, so Heather had me doing a few fartleks for speed and lots of hill repeats for quality.

I headed up north on Friday to pick up my race kit and partake in the pasta dinner.  Even though I knew quite a few people, I was still pretty anxious.  I sat between Agnes and Jon, who commented "atta girl!" on my choice of red wine with dinner instead just water. After dinner, a mic was passed around and everyone had to introduce themselves and say a little something.  Strangely, this did not set off my anxiety as I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say.."Hi, I'm Patty from Burlington and I'll probably be last at the 50K tomorrow, but my nail polish will match my skirt."

Then the 40 min drive back to my motel in Minden, where I set my alarm for 3:30/stupid o'clock and proceeded to have a relatively decent sleep.

I had brought my Bodum to make coffee, but since there was a Tim's across the street, I decided not to bother.  I stumbled into my car at 4 and got there only to find that small town Tim's didn't open until 5, the race started at 6.  I went back to my room and got my coffee at 5 to have in the car, too late to let it do its magic. 

mug from Sarah Marie Design Studio.

The drive to Haliburton Forest was nerve wracking, due to thick fog, brain fog from the coffee not kicking in yet, and windy country roads.  I parked, did my thing in a dark bush during the 100 mile roll call and prayer and hurried off to the start. 

The first few kilometres was on a gently rolling dirt road and I actually enjoyed this.  When people told me there would be road at Hali, I was picturing asphalt.  The hills were runnable and made me feel strong when I crested the top and just enough downhill to pick up speed.  The first loop around Macdonald Lake was beautiful, just as the sun was rising.  It was a little bit hilly and technical but nothing unmanageable.

Robin had told me a long time ago that the further you go in the forest at Hali, the easier it gets.  I definitely found this to be true, it was quite hilly and technical to start but was a bit flatter near the turnaround for the 50K.

The weather was not too hot, but very humid and I was able to eat regularly.  Saw Agnes at AS4 at 16K, the AS volunteers were the best!  

The skies finally opened up and the rain was refreshing.  I was wearing my new Altra Superiors, but the grip on wet rocks and mud was not as good as the Saucony Peregrines.  I considered changing my shoes on my way back through AS4, but thought that stuffing my feet into a more conventional toe box after wearing the Altras would be a BAD idea.  So I stuck with the Altras, even though I ended up going down a smooth, steep rock on my butt.  

At some point, my left glute/hip, which has been bothering me all summer, really flared up, along with a pain in my knee.  I pulled into AS4 for the 2nd time, and Jon, the dude from dinner was there.  He said that my hip was out and offered to fix it just as I was about to down a handful of ibuprofen.  He said I wouldn't need it after the adjustment but I took the pills anyway.  Jon did these isometric SI joint exercises that I've had done to me after a massage, but my chiropractor cracks my SI at every visit and that has done nothing for me lately.

"Are you a chiropractor?" Nope, he's an RMT.
He could be an amateur rub&tug for all I care, he fixed my hip!

Isometric SI joint unsticking.  Photos by Agnes.
The combination of the SI adjustment plus the drugs kicking in was amazing - I felt 100% better!  However, the lake loop seemed far hillier going the other way, and the road sections were pretty scary..although they had warned people to drive s-l-o-w-l-y at the dinner, there were cars zooming past, and I had to jump aside a couple times plus inhale all the exhaust fumes in their wake.  Yuck.

The course was a strict out and back and as long as you kept the flags on the right going out and on the left coming back, it was impossible to get lost.  I thought my Garmin was very accurate, the turnaround was right at 25K, and when I got to AS3 at 45K, they confirmed it was 5K to the finish.  So I'm happily counting down the kilometres, and came to AS2 with my Garmin showing 49.3 and they told me it's 2K to the finish and that Garmins lie.  Now I understand that to be true, but every distance had matched up right until the end!  It was very demoralizing and I walked for a bit coming out of AS2 before I could make myself run again.

Finished! and far from being DFL! (photo: Agnes)

Aside from a ton of mosquito and deer fly bites (I was too tired to care about reapplying repellent when the rain stopped), I feel pretty good!  The volunteers and general positive atmosphere made it clear why people love Haliburton and come back year after year.

Kawartha Dairy was about 500 m from the motel.  Sweet Heat ice cream -
vanilla with spicy caramel.  Normally I hate caramel but this was incredible!